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Published: Wednesday, 06th May 2020

Leaders progress bold active travel plans as up to £5 million of emergency funding made available as part of coronavirus recovery

  • Local Authorities launch #SafeStreetsSaveLives campaign to support social distancing during coronavirus lockdown and recovery
  • Pop-up infrastructure and temporary measures prioritised to enable safe essential travel and exercise for GM residents
  • Up to £5m of emergency funding will be available to Local Authorities from the Mayors Cycling and Walking Challenge Fund (MCF)

Greater Manchesters council leaders have committed to creating enhanced shared spaces for pedestrians and people on bikes across the city-region, to enable people to keep their distance for safe essential journeys and exercise during the coronavirus lockdown and through recovery.

Brought together under the Safe Streets Save Lives campaign, local authorities are looking to prioritise a range of temporary, pop-up measures such as footway extensions, one-way streets, removing through traffic on certain roads, adding extra cycle lanes and removing street ‘clutter’ like pedestrian guard rail at pinch points1.

The emergency changes will be matched to help ease social distancing at specific locations such as areas outside shops, transport hubs or routes to hospitals in the districts, with £5m of funding made available through the Mayor’s Cycling and Walking Challenge Fund.

Whilst there has been a dramatic fall in traffic volumes of about 60% across Greater Manchester, walking and cycling have played an increasingly important role. They now account for approximately 33% of all journeys, with cycling up 22% compared to pre-lockdown data. These trends have also led to congestion almost being eliminated and significant drop in pollution.

By encouraging the use of sustainable modes of transport, Greater Manchester is looking to Build Back Better as part of its recovery plans while supporting the ambition to be carbon neutral by 2038 and honour its commitment to become a walking and cycling city-region.

Key to this is providing people with safe and direct routes around their local area by fast tracking the approval of side road zebras, as part of the emergency response. Greater Manchester was part way through a study with evidence showing that 93% of road users recognised side road Zebra markings that are currently used across the world. The Mayor Andy Burnham has written to the Transport Secretary, Grant Shapps, asking him to enable local highway authorities to utilise these measures immediately.

Andy Burnham, Mayor of Greater Manchester, said: “Greater Manchester has been leading the way with our plans to build the largest walking and cycling network in the UK. A number of cities around the world have begun implementing measures to enable safe essential travel and exercise during lockdown. As part of our efforts to Build Back Better in Greater Manchester, we’re taking the same, bold approach - Safe Streets really do Save Lives.

“Peoples’ travel behaviour across our city region has transformed during lockdown. As more people turn to walking and cycling, we want that to continue as we move into life beyond lockdown. That’s why we’ve proposed measures, backed by up to £5m of funding, to create space which allows people to continue making safe, sustainable journeys.

“Whatever peoples’ motivation - these choices are contributing to cleaning up our city’s air and causing less congestion on our roads, and that’s something we must sustain for the immediate future.”

Chris Boardman, Cycling and Walking Commissioner for Greater Manchester, said: “Like any successful response to a crisis, people must be the priority. And fortunately, the data is unambiguous; during lockdown more and more residents across Greater Manchester are turning to walking and cycling for essential journeys and exercise. So, in order give people the space they need to keep safe, the only real question was ‘how soon can we act?’

“If we don’t take steps to enable people to keep traveling actively, we risk a huge spike in car use as measures are eased. Not only is it the right thing to do to protect people now, but it’s vital to meet our clean air goals and protect our NHS long term.”

Local authorities have prioritised schemes that sit within the Mayors Cycling and Walking Challenge Fund and can be used as coronavirus response measures, with Transport for Greater Manchester providing support to help design and implement the measures across the districts.

Oldham Councillor Ateeque Ur Rehman, Oldham Council’s Cabinet Member for Neighbourhood Services, said: “Over the coming weeks and months it is vital that residents feel safe when using our streets and public spaces.

“Coupled with this, we want to make it as easy as possible for people to get around so they can carry out essential journeys and exercise.

“We’ve come up with a number of measures that we feel will help out, and they also fit with our long term ambitions of becoming a greener borough.”

Oldham is proposing a number of ways to help with social distancing for cyclists and pedestrians. 

These include looking at better access routes into schools and education centres and also seeing if we can remove any potential blockages, including badly parked vehicles, on our streets so people find it easier to get about.

Road markings will be refreshed and we’ll also be working closely with TfGM so social distancing is observed on public transport.

We’d also like see work begin on potential plans we have in the pipeline for better cycling and walking routes in and around the borough as these will help people access facilities and also travel to other boroughs.

Once approved, a list of the Safe Streets Save Lives schemes will be listed on TfGMs website:

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